Faith That Expects God
June 22, 2008 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Expecting God
Passage: Hebrews 11:1–6
Faith That Expects God
This morning we will be starting a series that will take us through the summer - a series I've entitled Expect God. Now the phrase Expect God is not a phrase found in the Bible, but it is a thoroughly biblical concept. Throughout the scriptures, one of the most important characteristics God desires in His people is that they approach Him with great expectancy. That expectancy for blessing, provision, deliverance, and most important, salvation, is expressed in terms like:
• Believe in God (John 14:1)
• Trust in the Lord (Ps. 37:3)
• The Lord will be your confidence (Prov. 3:26)
• Have faith in God (Mark 11:22)
Believe, trust, faith, confidence. Over and over again we see that God's dealings with His people correspond to their faith - or expectancy - in Him. Faith is essential to every aspect of our walk with God, beginning with our salvation - for we are saved by grace through faith. Faith is, as J. Gresham Machen says, "the means which the Holy Spirit uses to apply to the individual soul the benefits of Christ's death."
Faith is not only essential to our being saved, it is also essential to our continued walk with God. Paul says, "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." Gal 2:20.
Without faith it is impossible to please God. The converse is true: when God's people look to God with faith, it pleases Him. My hope is that as we look at scripture over the next few months God will work in us as a church through His Word and by His Spirit to stir a greater expectancy and greater faith in God. And where there is an atmosphere of expectancy among God's people, God will be moving according to that expectancy.
"We must recognize that [the] activities of the Holy Spirit are not to be taken for granted, and they do not just happen automatically among God's people. Rather, the Holy Spirit reflects the pleasure or displeasure of God with the faith and obedience - or unbelief and disobedience - of God's people." ~ Wayne Grudem
In other words, God doesn't just do what He's going to do regardless of whether we have faith or unbelief, obedience or disobedience. We must be careful that we do not allow our belief in God's sovereignty to become an excuse for our passivity or apathy. A church that wants to see greater manifestations of the living God must seek to grow and respond in faith and obedience to God.
Our experience of God's activity in this church will reflect our expectancy of God's activity in our midst.
Without faith it is impossible to please God...There is no substitute in our Christian walk for faith. It's not enough to be faithful if we're not also faith-filled. Don't misunderstand - being faithful is necessary and of great value in the sight of God! We need to be faithful. What I mean is that we can faithfully perform our duties and yet not do it out of a heart filled with faith toward God.
We can pray with no real expectation that God will answer. That kind of praying will see few answers.
When we tell people about Jesus but don't expect them to respond to gospel, we will see very few conversions.
When we come to church or care group, but don't expect to engage with God - no wonder why we often leave the same way we came in.
See, we can be faithful to perform our duties but do that without faith. It's not pleasing to God - and we will not see much from the hand of God when we do. Faithfulness is good - but it needs to be combined with faith. It is impossible to please God without faith!! In light of that, let's begin this conversation about expecting God by considering what Scripture teaches us about faith.
I. Biblical faith is centered on God
...whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him...(vs 6)
1. Faith believes that God exists
Biblical faith is always centered on God. God is the focus of faith, not faith itself.
Many of us have encountered some form of what is commonly called the "Faith Movement". Along with a deficiency of biblical doctrine they are also vulnerable to being centered on faith rather than centered on God. Biblical faith is not focused on faith - focused on God. Nature of faith is that its eyes are not on itself (do I have enough faith) but focused on God.
Faith believes that God is God. High view of God. Faith sees a panoramic view of God. Most of us need to have our eyes opened to see the breathtaking vista of who God is. That alone would forever change our lives!
We need an experience like Elisha's servant when he woke up to find they were surrounded by the Syrian army, and cried out to Elisha, "alas...what shall we do?"
Elisha told him not to be afraid "for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
He prayed and servant's eyes were opened to see the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire. This servant didn't need to be talked into a different attitude or perspective - he needed his eyes opened to the greater reality was around them: armies of God.
This is what the heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11 have in common. Whether they went into unknown lands or parted the Red Sea or shut the mouths of lions or were sawn asunder, they saw what cannot be seen with physical eyes and yet is so much more real: God is God, beside Him there is no other, and He is worthy of our following Him with our lives.
2. Faith believes that God is generous
...and that He rewards those who seek Him...
Biblical faith believes more than God exists. The demons believe that and tremble! Biblical faith believes something very specific about God: that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. God is generous to those who come to Him and ask.
When we come to our heavenly Father we can know that He hears us and He wants to pour out His blessing. Faith speaks of God's character as generous and kind. Doubt and fear says God isn't good - isn't faithful - isn't listening. We might think that our small faith mostly says something about us - really it says much more of our view of God.
Another thing the heroes of the faith had in common: they believed that God's rewards were far better than any earthly treasures. Faith sees that reward and desires it above all.
3. Faith believes God's promises when their fulfillment is yet unseen
Faith sees the unseen through the promises of God. Believes God's promises as the ultimate reality. Noah built an ark before there was a drop of rain. Abraham left his people and go to a place without knowing where that place was to be. All that he had the promise of God - enough. Faith sees the unseen through the promises of God. Like old hymn, Standing on the Promises of God.
The African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall.
Fear can do that to us too. We can be imprisoned by fears and anxieties time and time again - even when we have seen God's faithfulness to our lives - and refuse to jump when God calls us to cause we can't see where our feet will fall. But God often calls us to jump without seeing where our feet will fall. Not blind faith - seeing something different than our physical eyes can see: faithfulness of God's promises.
God wants to do more in and through His people than they can naturally do on their own. Than we can do on our own. God is glorified when He works in and through His people in ways that are obviously God's work and not simply our natural ability.
"Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends." ~ George Muller.
"Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is to see what we believe."
Faith always has this component to it: believing God's promises when their fulfillment is yet unseen. That will often bring us to a crisis of faith: do we believe or do we doubt? Will we trust or not? Crisis of faith is a common and necessary thing: do not be discouraged if in some area you feel faith drained and weak. It's a crisis of faith - press in to God and ask Him what He is doing and how you can trust Him in this season. Like the prayer of the father who brought his demonized son to Jesus, in his moment of desperation and honesty he cried out, "Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!"
II. God responds to His people according to our faith
I've already touched on this - but worth emphasizing. God responds according to our faith - if we have small faith, we see little. Much faith (and it's Christ-centered, biblical and balanced) then we will see greater manifestations of the power of God!
In my morning reading I am currently going through the book of Matthew. Let's just take a flight over the book of Matthew to see how Jesus linked faith to answers.
1. When four friends lowered their paralytic friend through the roof, it says,
...when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven." Matthew 9:2 (ESV)
2. As Jesus is making his way to the centurion's house, a crowd pressing in around him, a woman who had suffered a blood discharge for 12 years pressed through the crowd with one thing on her mind: "If I only touch his garment, I will be made well."
Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well. Matthew 9:22 (ESV)
3. Not long after that there are two blind men in the street calling for him to heal them. Jesus asks them if they believe He is able to heal them and they confidently answer yes.
Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith be it done to you." Matthew 9:29 (ESV)
4. Wonderful story of the persistent Canaanite woman whose daughter was demon possessed. When Jesus told her it wasn't right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs (meaning what was at that time meant only for house of Israel and not for the Gentiles) she responded, "yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table."
Almost hear Jesus laugh as he says to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:28 (ESV)
These are just some examples - throughout the Bible we see God responding to the faith of His people. What would these stories have been if the four friends saw the crowded house and didn't drop their friend through the roof? If the woman with the discharge saw crowd and said, it probably wouldn't work anyway? If the blind men had not called until Jesus heard them? If the Canaanite woman took Jesus' statement as a rejection? They each had faith and that faith pressed in to receive an answer - they received an answer according to their faith.
III. The importance of prayer
I am only going to touch on this briefly, because want to devote next week's message on it, but I am seriously convicted and convinced that God will move in the church in proportion to the prayers of His people. If Charles Spurgeon were to walk around the church, the first thing he would want to examine is the prayer meeting. HE called them the heating plant of the church. Where there was no prayer, there was no power.
We tried Sunday mornings, but for several reasons that doesn't work all that well. We are considering other nights and options. Know this: it must be of the highest priority and my prayer is that God will raise up prayer warriors in this church. There is no more important ministry!
I am asking God for a fresh work in this church and I believe He will do something new. While we will always hold firmly to gospel and to certain glorious distinctions as a church, I also want us to be open to doing things in a new way. Think outside of the box. Think prayerfully outside box.
And then there are the three foot walls we have around us: we are a small church. Little in way of resources. We don't have our own building. We have had little success reaching the community. The fields don't seem white unto harvest. And we aren't doing all we can to "go" either!
We begin to say, "this is what we are. This is as far as we can go - there's a wall around us." Listen, if that's God's plan, than it is wonderful and we are grateful. I'm just saying, we should be asking God to use us in the ways He desires to do that - no more, but certainly no less.
Asking God to do a new thing:
• Move by His Spirit over this community and through this valley - making lost sinners hungry and thirsty for His grace. Lord of the Harvest would bring harvest to a new ripeness.
• No longer have the polite disinterestedness - people would get saved in great quantities. Not for this church - not about this church, but about the kingdom. Have the joy and privilege of praying with a group of local pastors on Tuesdays, and they are praying the same thing!
• Lives would be transformed - by power of God. Marriages that are suffering or surviving would thrive in grace.
• Children that are rebellious would give their lives to Christ and joyfully respect authority
• People with chronic illness might be healed.
• People would be convicted by Spirit of God simply by walking in to service.
This and much, much more. Only happen - and it should only happen - as God's response to prayer. If these things were to happen because of programs or plans or people skills, then man would get the glory. But if we pray, and then see God do glorious things - God gets the glory and we get the joy!
I am not trying to "hype you up" to some new emotional pitch. Exactly the opposite. My prayer is that it not be by human stirring, but a move of God. All I'm asking is "will you join me" in praying for this? I'm looking for prayer warriors, those who aren't just jazzed about it for a week or two and then give up - but are committed to it because they want to see God do great things and have faith that if we ask, we will receive.
Notice an insert in bulletin. If feel want to take a tangible step toward these things - ask you to commit to pray for these things for just a few minutes every day. If heart is stirred to see what God can do - pray. And Expect God.
More in Expecting God
August 17, 2008Expecting God in our Marriages
August 10, 2008Expecting God To Call Us To Do Great (Hard) Things
August 3, 2008Expecting God in the Midst of Hardship